Where in the world did the summer go? It seems like each summer I find myself asking this question sooner and sooner. With all of the fun summer trips, camps, and pool time I feel like every parent is probably wondering the same thing. And yet, whether we’re ready or not, it’s already time to start a new school year! Getting prepared for the new school year can be exciting for kids (and parents)! However, for students who have recently started orthodontic treatment, starting school can feel a little more stressful than usual. With changes in appearance, daily oral hygiene routines and meal options, what seemed like small changes at home may be a little overwhelming at school, particularly in the first few weeks. At Mitchell, Bartlett & Bell Orthodontics we try our very best to make every patient’s orthodontic experience as easy and fun as possible. If you have a child who is going back to school with braces, here are some helpful tips we’ve put together to make the transition as smooth and stress-free as possible!
Keep a braces care kit on hand
At MB2Ortho each patient who enters orthodontic treatment with braces is given a care kit. We recommend every student take this with them to school because you never know when these helpful items may be needed. Some of the best items to have in this kit are:
- A soft bristled toothbrush
- Fluoride toothpaste
- Dental floss
- Dental wax
- Lip balm
Because braces tend to cause more food entrapment when eating so it is always a good idea, if possible, to have students brush their teeth after lunch. Brackets and wires can also cause mild irritation to the lips and cheeks from time to time. When this happens it is great to have some dental wax on hand to cover any areas that are causing irritation until the problem can be fixed.
Keep snacks and lunches braces-friendly
Unfortunately, food limitations can be one of the hardest things for new braces patients to get used to and going back to school can make this even more daunting. At Mitchell, Bartlett & Bell Orthodontics we give each patient a list of “No-No Foods” to avoid. These are extremely important because broken brackets can lead to discomfort and/or delays in treatment. Foods that are too sticky, crunchy or chewy should be avoided because they have the potential to break wires and brackets. This may be easy to avoid during the summer when parents are preparing meals and snacks, but if your child buys their lunch or has access to vending machines at school, the temptation to grab one of those no-no foods can be strong. Take the time to review the school’s weekly lunch menu and make sure there is something that your child can eat on the list. If their choices are not braces-friendly, you may find that packing a lunch will make things easier on everyone. Cutting foods into bite-sized pieces makes eating with braces much easier. Prepping bite-sized pieces the night before will save time and also keep the amount of food being trapped in the brackets and wires to a minimum. This will also make brushing and flossing easier for your child, which is always a plus! Healthy snacks like yogurt and applesauce are always a great way to supplement your child’s lunch and keep them feeling full and satisfied all day long.
Keep a mirror handy
Eating with braces is an interesting new challenge that takes time to master. There are many small parts and pieces to grab onto food debris, which can be unsightly and embarrassing. The sugar and food particles that get trapped around your child’s braces can increase the chance of cavity-causing bacteria setting up shop, which increases the likelihood of developing tooth decay. Unfortunately, most people don’t like to point out when someone has food stuck in their teeth or braces! Encourage your student to keep a small mirror in their locker or backpack to check their teeth for food particles after eating.
Purchase a mouthguard for your student-athlete
If your child has braces and also plays sports, or has gym class, you may want to consider investing in an orthodontic mouthguard. Sports and other physical activity can increase the risk of braces being damaged or your child’s cheeks, gums, or mouth being injured. The good news is that braces act as a shock absorber for the teeth. So if your student-athlete does experience an injury while in braces, most of the time the teeth will be protected. Orthodontic mouthguards are fabricated to be worn with braces, and they are the simplest way to prevent injury and ensure oral health. These mouthguards are usually available at all major sporting goods stores and online. A brand that I usually recommend is called Shock Doctor. They have a version specifically for children in braces that comes in a variety of colors and sizes so your student-athlete will feel comfortable and excited about wearing it on game day!
Carry a water bottle for quick hydration
Staying hydrated is such an important part of your child’s overall health, but drinking water is also an easy way to keep food particles from sticking to the teeth and braces. At Mitchell, Bartlett, & Bell Orthodontics we encourage water over other liquids, especially soda, sports drinks, and sweet tea. These sugary drinks cover the teeth and braces in sugar and acid, which can stain the teeth, and result in white spots when the braces are removed. I always tell my new braces patients that if they insist on drinking the occasional soda or juice, they should make sure to brush, or at least rinse their mouth with water, afterward to prevent the sugar from sitting on the teeth for too long.
It is normal to feel a little nervous about going back to school with braces, but with your encouragement and a lot of patience, your child can get through the first few days with a smile! The journey to a gorgeous smile and healthier mouth takes time, but we aim to make it as easy and fun as it can be. We want to help make this school year a success for all of the students we treat, so if you or your child has any questions or concerns just give us a call.
Mitchell, Bartlett & Bell Orthodontics wishes all students and teachers a great start to the school year!